Tuesday, December 18, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - december 22, 2018

See, this is the sort of week that could've been far, far worse if I didn't implement album bomb rules. As I've mentioned before, I had vetoed XXXTENTACION's posthumous album from my schedule because I refuse to dignify what his money-grubbing label did through its release, but it came with the acknowledgement that at least some of it would wind up on the Hot 100. But given that we have eight new entries, might as well give the album bomb rules from last week another spin and only talk about best/worst entries and anything that winds up in the top 40... which winds up making this list a lot more manageable, which is the holiday boost I can definitely use!

But before we get to that, our top ten - and unsurprisingly, Ariana Grande's 'thank u, next' has a solid hold on the #1... although there are pressure points that are telling. Yeah, the radio and streaming numbers are huge, but those sales look a little soft, especially when you compare to our top seller, 'Without Me' by Halsey up to #2. And while it is marginally ahead of 'thank u, next' on the radio, its streaming - especially in on-demand and YouTube - hold it back from getting much higher. This elbows back 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott to #3, because even despite maintaining good streaming numbers, it does not have radio momentum anymore. Then we have 'Happier' by Marshmello and Bastille up to #4, which yes, had some good sales, but it peaked on the radio and streaming has never been that strong, it could be taking losses soon. What doesn't seem to be losing is 'High Hopes' by Panic! At The Disco at #5, where amazingly the radio gains haven't stopped and it actually picked up a slot on sales - with streaming as a non-presence it's not getting higher, but still, I'm a little amazed here! Then we have what I reckon will be a bigger challenger in the next two week: 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' by Mariah Carey up to #6 - with strong sales and streaming, while I think I might have over-estimated this being a #1 contender, it's got the sort of traction to get higher. Then, following off of the boost for Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse being a genuinely great movie, we have 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee hitting a new peak at #7 - it quietly built up a solid radio base, so with a boost to sales and streaming, this could hold a solid spot. Then we had a position gained for 'Drip Too Hard' by Lil Baby and Gunna at #8 - it's always had good streaming and it had a good week on sales and the radio, alarmingly - followed by 'ZEZE' by Kodak Black ft. Travis Scott and Offset losing a slot at #9, likely thanks to streaming losses. Finally, in case you weren't all sick of this song enough, we have a song re-entering the top 10 because for some ungodly reasons it's still getting YouTube and its radio hasn't died - that's right, it's 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 and Cardi B back at #10, and the sooner it's back out again, the better! 

And on that note, our losers and dropouts! Now in the latter category, there's little for me to really complain about: getting rid of 'Ring' by Cardi B and Kehlani, 'FEFE' by 6ix9ine, Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz, and 'STOOPID' by 6ix9ine and Bobby Shmurda, none of that is bad news. And yet it continued to be bad for 6ix9ine this week as 'KIKA' with Tory Lanez fell to 60, 'MAMA' with Kanye West and Nicki Minaj went to 75, 'WAKA' with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie fell to 78, and 'TIC TOC' with Lil Baby slid to 91. But as expected, the biggest loser this week was Meek Mill as the Championships album bomb slipped into freefall - 'Going Bad' with Drake went to 17, 'Dangerous' with Jeremih and PnB rock went to 49, 'What's Free' with Rick Ross and Jay-Z slid to 61, 'Uptown Vibes' with Fabolous and Anuel AA went to 79, 'On Me' with Cardi B dropped to 82, and '24/7' with Ella Mai fell off to 86. The rest... well, the last few are either new entries that lost momentum - 'Nuketown' by Ski Mask The Slump God featuring Juice WRLD went to 98, 'Good Form' by Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne fell to 94, and sadly 'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart' by Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus fell to 80 - or a song that's never had consistent traction, like 'That's On Me' by Yella Beezy hitting 92.

But all of this is to be expected in the aftermath of an album bomb, what's replacing it? Honestly, it's tough to get excited about a lot of it, especially given how much feels like by-the-numbers trap and mainstream country. Yes, going to our returning entries we also got 'Feliz Navidad' by Jose Feliciano at 42, but on the country side we got 'Girl Like You' by Jason Aldean at 77, 'Beautiful Crazy' by Luke Combs at 97, and 'Last Shot' by Kip Moore at 87, and then with trap we saw 'Dip' by Tyga and Nicki Minaj at 99 and 'YOSEMITE' by Travis Scott at 100! And for our gains... well, it's intriguing, because more than ever it seems indicative of acts that mostly survived the album bomb picking up big gains in the mean time. I've already mentioned 'Sunflower', but in particular 'Close To Me' by Ellie Goulding, Diplo and Swae Lee picked up big to 59, 'You Say' by Lauren Daigle rose to 58, and 'This Feeling' by The Chainsmokers and Kelsea Ballerini picked up to 71 - hey, I didn't say the majority of these were good! Then we had losers rebound big - as predicted, 'BAD' by XXXTENTACION and 'Arms Around You' by X, Lil Pump, Swae Lee and Maluma rose off the album bomb to 33 and 57 respectively, 'Lost In Japan' by Shawn Mendes and Zedd found traction at 56, 'Be Alright' by Dean Lewis picked up to 63, 'Backin' It Up' by Pardison Fontaine and Cardi B rose to 66, 'Consequences' by Camila Cabello rose to 72, 'You' by Jacquees found traction to 83, and 'No Stylist' by French Montana and Drake rose to 86. And then we had rebounds for country, with 'Burning Man' by Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne up to 73, 'Sixteen' by Thomas Rhett up to 76, and 'Good Girl' by Dustin Lynch at 81... offset by 'Calling My Spirit' by Kodak Black picking up off the debut last week to 53, but I can hope, right? And amidst all of this, we also got a boost for 'Jingle Bell Rock' by Bobby Helms - and hey, who can complain about that, right? And since album bomb rules are in effect, here are the XXXTENTACION songs that are from the album that I'm not covering: 'STARING AT THE SKY' at 68, 'what are you so afraid of' at 65, 'Train food' at 64, 'I don't let go' at 51, and 'Guardian angel' at 48.

But now we've got our remaining new arrivals, starting with...

96. 'This Is It' by Scotty McCreery - ...I swear, someone at a major label should hire me for consultation on choosing singles, because when you have songs as great 'Home On My Mind' or even 'Boys From Back Home', you go to this instead, I'm going to wind up disappointed. Well, fine, not that disappointed: Scotty McCreery is still one of the better male singers in mainstream country and his production still has a lot of warmth and character thanks to using live drums and giving his guitar tones plenty of room to breathe. And while I do think the song can feel a bit schmaltzy - he took his girlfriend to the top of a mountain and proposed, and his upper register on that bridge feels thinner than I expected - it at least feels like a decent country song. So yeah, decent stuff, I'll take it.

95. 'Look Back At It' by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie - so I'll admit that while A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie has never quite won me over - he's just not a great lyricist - he has been responsible for some of the catchier melodies and flair in this brand of trap over the past few years. So I'll admit I had some hopes this'd be interesting, even if in this case it comes from him interpolating melodies that were originally composed by Michael Jackson on 'Remember The Time' and 'Rock My World, so no points there. But really, the darker atmosphere and gleaming main synth off the piano did have some presence and I was grooving with the vibe here... only to hit the realization that for as much of this girl is bad for him despite being irresistible, Boogie provides few details surrounding any of it. Nothing he says on the song feels all that memorable or striking in terms of flexing or punchlines, it's just kind of formless... and that means I've got less than I want to say about it. Still okay, I guess. 

84. 'Difference (Interlude)' by XXXTENTACION - so here's the thing with a posthumous album - as much as I find the entire practice kind of detestable, there is a way to do it right, mostly by trying to create the illusion that the artist is still alive, to at least try and feel timeless. Maybe about the worst thing you could do is produce an interlude that is basically unfinished, where amidst the sloppy acoustic guitar and half-formed lyrics you can actively hear the engineers and producers assembling this mid-recording. It tips your hand, it shatters the illusion, and when you have an album as abbreviated as this is and you're still trying to cram in an interlude, maybe it's evidence that this was all an atrocious idea! 

62. 'One Minute' by XXXTENTACION ft. Kanye West & Travis Barker - so I'll say this: this song is probably the most coherently structured verse on this album, because Kanye is at least a decent rapper and seems to be trying to make a point behind this stuttering hard rock riff and Travis Barker's drumwork. Now considering said riff never goddamn changes or evolves, you'd think the drums would be more varied in order to split up the track, but nope, instead we get to hear Kanye deep into his victim complex circa-Yeezus where he goes all the way on blaming the victim in X's case - and yes, I know his management has made statements against it, I'll believe it just about as much as the rest of his faux-trolling nonsense that he shoved on 'Yikes' and the majority of his guest verses this year. But what might get more alarming is that he outright admits there's no logic in what he says, but what he said and did made him who he is and it's enough to trump all scholars... no, I saw that intended wordplay, fuck that nonsense! And then they have a sample of X screaming, who I might actually prefer to Kanye's anti-intellectual horseshit! So yeah, this is toxic and atrocious, maybe not the worse verse from Kanye but among his most galling - I'd take the mediocre screamo over this.

41. 'Sleigh Ride' by The Ronettes - and now we've got another holiday standard hitting the Hot 100 for the first time, although it has been a staple on the Billboard Holiday Top 10s for some time... and yet it's probably not the version I'm most familiar with. If I was going to listen to this, I'd probably grab the versions by Johnny Mathis or Harry Connick Jr., or I'd dig up one of the more complex versions of the track where the full rondo harmonies are preserved. With The Ronettes... eh, it's good and I like Phil Spector's production, but it just feels a little overstated and lacking the swagger that I've always appreciated about the groovier versions of this song. This... eh, I'm not going to complain, but it's not a favourite of mine either. 

40. 'Here Comes Santa Claus' by Gene Autry - and just like the Gene Autry song I covered last week, this was actually a hit before - on the charts that predate the Hot 100, back in 1948, where it broke the top 10 on the sales charts... and in comparison to last week, this is not one of my favourites. It's always felt a little too jaunty with the strings and weak horns and accordion - maybe it's just me, but I like my Christmas songs to have a bit more groove and flair, and this one trying inelegantly to mash Santa Claus into a Christian framework is kind of goofy, although very American of him too. But as it is... meh, can't care too much about it, it's harmless - let's move on.

37. 'whoa (mind in awe)' by XXXTENTACION - and this is the highest charting song from XXXTENTACION that hit this week... and like anything else from this half-formed exercise in horrible taste, there's barely anything to say about it. I will say that what sounds like a rattling marimba line actually conveys a pretty solid melody and when the sharper kickdrums and trap skitters come in, they balance pretty well. Shame they then have to tack on XXXTENTACION's undercooked crooning that adds nothing - good production that keeps it in safe territory, but beyond that, Mya was already comparing things to be like 'whoa' back in 2003, and that song wasn't trying to be meaningful or impassioned. This... eh, the production is legitimately good enough to put it in average territory, but it's not getting higher than that.

And that was our week... man, this is all I've got to work with? Fine, 'This Is It' by Scotty McCreery gets best of the week, and 'Look Back At It' by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie gets Honourable Mention - the production is at least pretty good there, I can dig it. Worst... yeah, I'd say XXXTENTACION is getting both of these, but really, it's the producers and record executives who deserve the scorn so much more here, with Dishonourable Mention is going to 'Difference (interlude)' with worst going to 'One Minute' with Kanye and Travis Barker - yes, entirely because of Kanye's disgusting verse and Travis Barker being a considerable disappointment. Next week... well, nobody cares about those projects from Zayn or The Chainsmokers and the streaming totals aren't looking so hot coming from Kodak, so maybe we might get a cooldown? Eh, who knows, Christmas is on a Tuesday and that means Billboard BREAKDOWN will likely get pushed back, so we'll see what happens.

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